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REVIEW POINTERS IN LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS

By Ret. Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman

I. DEFINITION

1.) Legal Ethics - branch of moral science 8.) Attorney Ad Hoc - a person named and
which treats of the duty that an attorney appointed by the court to defend an
owes to the court, to his clients, to his absentee defendant in the suit in which
colleagues in the profession and to the the appointment is made.
public.
9.) Attorney of record - attorney whose
2.) Rule of Law - sometimes called the name appears in the record of the case as
supremacy of the law provides that representing a party.
decisions should be made by the
application of known legal principles or 10.) Counsel de Parte - a lawyer chosen by
laws without the intervention of the party to represent him in a case.
discretion in their application.
11.) Amicus curiae - literally, a friend of
3.) Grossly Immoral Act - one that is so the court. A lawyer appointed by the court
corrupt and false as to constitute a not to represent a party to the case, but to
criminal act or so unprincipled or advise the court on intricate questions of
disgraceful as to be reprehensible to a laws in a case that that the lawyer may
high degree. have some expertise.

4.) Barratry - The offense of frequently 12.) Attorney-in-fact - an agent whose


exciting and stirring up quarrels and suits, authority is limited by the instrument
either at law or otherwise. appointing him, though he may do things
not mentioned in his appointment
5.) Ambulance chasing - the act of seeking necessary to the performance of the duties
out persons and advertising them to an specifically required of him by the power
attorney in consideration of a percentage of attorney, such authority being
of the recovery. necessarily implied.

6.) Practice of Law - any activity in or out of 13.) Attorney-at-law - a person admitted
court which requires the application of to practice law and authorized to perform
laws, legal procedure, knowledge, training civil, criminal and other legal functions for
and experience. clients including drafting of legal
documents, giving of legal advice and
7.) Counsel de Officio - a lawyer appointed representing such before the courts
by the court to represent a party usually administrative bodies and boards.
an indigent accused in a criminal case.
14.) Assumpsit - The action filed by a
lawyer against his client for collection of
attorney's fees

II. THE LAWYER’S OATH

I, ________, do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, I
will support the Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted
authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly
or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same;
I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of
my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose
upon myself these voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So
help me God.
III. FOUR-FOLD DUTIES OF A LAWYER

a.) To the Court - To maintain towards it a respectful attitude, defend it from unjust criticisms, uphold
its authority and dignity, obey its orders and processes and assist in the administration of justice.

b.) To the Bar - To observe candor, fairness, courtesy, and truthfulness in his conduct towards fellow
lawyers and uphold the honor of the profession.

c.) To the Client - To devote his action to the interest of the client manifest warmth and zeal in the
maintenance of the defense of his clients’ rights and exertion of interest, learning ability to the end that
nothing be taken or withheld from his client except that in accordance with law. To provide zealous
representation and preserve the clients’ secrets, funds and property and avoid conflict of interests.

d.) To the public - To be an example in the community for uprightness and be ready to render legal aid,
foster legal reforms, be a guardian of due process and be aware of his special role in the solution of
social problems.

IV. PRACTICE OF LAW

a.) Practice of law is not a Business

It is a profession in which duty to public service not money is the primary consideration.
Lawyering is not meant to be a money making venture and law advocacy is not a capital that
necessarily yields profits.

b.) The following elements distinguish the legal profession from business -
1. A duty of public service of which the involvement is a by-product and in which one may attain
the highest eminence without making much money.
2. A relation as an officer of the Court to the Administration of Justice involving thorough sincerity,
integrity and reliability.
3. A relation to clients in the highest degree of fiduciary.
4. A relation to colleagues at the Bar characterized by candor, fairness and unwillingness to resort
to current business methods of advertising and encroachment in their practice, or dealing
directly with their clients.

V. MANDATORY CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION (MCLE)

a.) Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)


It is the rule promulgated by the Supreme Court requiring all lawyers with a few exceptions to
earn 36 units of legal education every three (3) years. Its purposes are to ensure that members of
the Bar keep abreast with laws and jurisprudence, maintain the ethics of the profession and
enhance the standards of the practice of law.

b.) The following are exempted from MCLE:

1. The President and the Vice President of the Philippines, and the Secretaries
and Undersecretaries of Executives Departments;
2. Senators and Members of the House of Representatives;
3. The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, incumbent and
retired members of the judiciary, incumbent members of the Judicial and Bar
Council and incumbent court lawyers covered by the Philippine Judicial
Academy program of continuing judicial education;
4. The Chief State Counsel, Chief State Prosecutor and Assistant Secretaries of the
Department of Justice;
5. The Solicitor General and the Assistant Solicitor General;
6. The Government Corporate Counsel, Deputy and Assistant Government
Corporate Counsel;
7. The Chairmen and Members of the Constitutional Commissions;
8. The Ombudsman, the Overall Deputy Ombudsman, the Deputy Ombudsmen
and the Special Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman;
9. Heads of government agencies exercising quasi-judicial functions;
10. Incumbent deans, bar reviews and professors of law who have teaching
experience for at least 10 years accredited law schools;
11. The Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and members of the Corps of Professors and
Professorial Lectures of the Philippine Judicial Academy; and
12. Governors and Mayors.

VI. JURISPRUDENCE

Bar Integration

In re: Atty. Marcial Edillon, 84 SCRA August 3, 1978:

An Integrated Bar is a State required Bar, to which any lawyer must belong. It is an official national
body of lawyers who are subject to all the rules prescribed for the governance of the Bar, including payment of
annual fees, and adherence to a code of professional ethics or responsibility, breach of which constitutes
sufficient reason for investigation upon proper cause appearing, a recommendation for discipline or
disbarment of the offending member.

When Congress enacted RA 6397 authorizing the Supreme Court to adopt rules of court to effect the
Integration of the Philippine Bar under such conditions as it shall see fit," it did so in the exercise of the
paramount police power of the State. But the most compelling argument sustaining the constitutionality and
validity of Bar integration in the Philippines is the explicit unequivocal grant of precise power to the Supreme
Court by Section 5 (5) of Article X of the 1973 Constitution of the Philippines. Even without RA 6397, the
Constitution granted to the Supreme Court the power to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and
procedure in all courts and admission to the practice of law which vests the S.C. vests the Supreme Court with
plenary power in all cases regarding the admission to and supervision of the practice of law. Compelling a
lawyer to be a member of the IBP is not violative of the Constitutional freedom to associate but the only
compulsion a lawyer is subjected to be is the payment of annual dues which is justified by the exercise of the
police power of the State.

Bar integration does not compel the lawyer to associate with anyone. He is free to attend or not the IBP
meetings. The only compulsion is the payment of annual dues which the S.C. in order to further the State's
legitimate interest in elevating the quality of professional legal services, may require that the cost be shared by
the subjects and beneficiaries of the regulatory program. Assuming that the questioned provision does compel
a lawyer to be a member of the Integrated Bar, such compulsion is justified as an exercise of the police power of
the State.

Ui vs Bonifacio, 333 SCRA 38, June 8, 2000:

The practice of law is a privilege. A bar candidate does not have the right to enjoy the practice of law
simply by passing the bar examinations. It is a privilege that can be revoked subject to due process once lawyer
violates his oath and the dictates of legal ethics.

The requirements for admission to the Practice of Law are:


1. must be a citizen of the Philippines;
2. must be a resident thereof;
3. at least 21 years of age;
4. a person of good moral character;
5. must show that no charges against him involving moral turpitude are filed or pending in court;
6. possess the required educational qualifications;
7. pass the bar examinations.

Possession of good moral character must be continuous; otherwise the loss thereof is a ground for the
revocation of such privilege.

To warrant disciplinary action, conduct must be grossly immoral, that is it must be so corrupt and false
as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree.

For immorality to warrant disciplinary action, the same must be grossly immoral, that is, it must be
corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree.
As to adulterous relationship, a member of the bar and officer of the court is not only required to refrain
from adulterous relationship but must also behave himself as to avoid scandalizing the public by creating the
belief that he is flouting those moral standards.

Pre-marital sexual relations with another making promise to marry suggests a doubtful character but
does not constitute grossly immoral conduct. (Figueroa vs Barranco Jr., 276 SCRA 445, July 31, 1997)

Barrios vs Martinez 442 SCRA 324, November 12, 2004:

Under Sec. 27, Rule 138 Rules of Court, a member of the bar may be disbarred from any of the
following reasons:
1. deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct;
2. grossly immoral conduct;
3. conviction of a case involving moral turpitude;
4. violation of the lawyer’s oath;
5. willful disobedience of any lawful order of the superior court;
6. corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so.

Moral turpitude is everything which is contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals like
issuance of check knowing that he does not have sufficient funds.

The SC may dishonor or suspend lawyers for any professional or private misconduct showing them to
be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor or to be worthy to continue as officers of
the court. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievances.
They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for public welfare and for the purpose of preserving courts of
justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice them.

Ali vs Bubong, 453 SCRA 1, March 8, 2005:

Where a lawyer’s misconduct as a government official is of such nature as to affect his qualification as a
lawyer or to show moral delinquency, he may be disciplined as a member of the bar on such grounds.

Olazo vs Tinga, 637 SCRA 1, December 07, 2010:

Generally, a lawyer who holds a government office may not be disciplined as a member of the Bar for
misconduct in the discharge of his duties as a government official. He may, however, be disciplined as a
member of the Bar only when his misconduct also constitutes a violation of his oath as a lawyer.

Que vs Revilla, 739 SCRA 459, November 11, 2014:

The basic inquiry in a petition for reinstatement to the practice of law is whether the lawyer has
sufficiently rehabilitated himself or herself in conduct and character.

Donton vs Tansingco 493 SCRA 1, June 27, 2006:

A lawyer should not render any service or give advice to any client which would involve defiance of the
law which he is bound to uphold and obey. A lawyer who assists a client in a dishonest scheme or who connives
in violating the law commits an act which justifies disciplinary action against the lawyer.

People vs Maceda, 323 SCRA 45 , January 24, 2000:

All prisoners whether under preventive detention or serving final sentence cannot practice their
profession nor engage in any business or occupation, or hold office, elective or appointive, while in detention.

Tan vs Balajadia, 484 SCRA 659, March 14, 2006:

The unauthorized practice of law by assuming to be an attorney and acting as such without authority
constitutes indirect contempt which is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.

Soriano vs Reyes 489 SCRA 328:

The affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case by complainant does not automatically exonerate the
respondent. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance.
Practice of Law

Linsingan vs Tolentino 598 SCRA 133 September 3, 2009:

Practice of law is a profession and not a business. Lawyers should not advertise their talent as
merchants advertise their wares.

Canon 3 of Code of Professional Responsibility- A lawyer in making known his


legal services shall use only true, honest, fair, dignified and objective information
or statements of facts.

A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed primarily to solicit legal business.

Rule 1.03 A lawyer shall not for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any
suit and proceeding and delay any man’s cause.

Rule 2.03 A lawyer shall not do and permit to be done any act designed precisely
to solicit legal business.

This rule proscribes ambulance chasing which means solicitation of almost any kind of legal businesses by an
attorney himself or through an agent in order to gain employment.

Rule 8.02 CPR – A lawyer should not steal another lawyer’s client nor induce the
latter to retain him by a promise of a better service, good results or reduced fees
for his services.

Calling cards may only contain the lawyer’s name, name of law firm with which he is connected,
address, telephone numbers and specific branch of law practiced.

A lawyer’s best advertisement is his well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to
trust based on his character and conduct.

ULEP vs. Legal Clinic, Inc. 223 SCRA 378 June 17, 1993:

Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal
procedures, knowledge, training and experience. Generally, to practice law is to give advice or render any kind
of service that involves legal knowledge or skill.

Dacanay vs. Baker and McKenzie 136 SCRA 349:

Baker & McKenzie, being an alien law firm, cannot practice law in the Philippines (Sec. 1, Rule 138,
Rules of Court). (Guerrero and Torres)

The act of using the name of an alien law firm constitutes a representation that being associated with
the firm they could "render legal services of the highest quality to multinational business enterprises and
others engaged in foreign trade and investment is unethical because Baker & McKenzie is not authorized to
practice law in the Philippines.

Aguirre vs Rana, 403 SCRA 342, June 10, 2003:

While it is true that a person passed the bar examinations and took the lawyer’s oath, it is signing of the
Roll of Attorneys that finally makes one a full pledged lawyer. Passing the Bar is not the only qualification to
become an attorney at law. The oath and essential requirements for becoming a lawyer still had to be
performed, namely: his lawyers oath to be administered by this Court and his signature in the Roll of Attorneys.

A member of the Bar may be disbarred or suspended on the following grounds:


1. deceit
2. malpractice or other gross misconduct
3. grossly immoral conduct
4. conviction of a case involving moral turpitude;
5. violation of the lawyer’s oath;
6. willful disobedience of any lawful order of the superior court;
7. corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so.
Khan vs. Simbillo 409 SCRA 299 August 19, 2003:

Practice of law is not a business. It is a profession in which duty to public service not money is the
primary consideration. Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a money making venture and law advocacy is
not a capital that necessarily yields profits. Gaining of livelihood should be a secondary consideration.

The following elements distinguish the legal profession from business:

1.) A duty of public service of which the emolument is a by-product and in which one may attain the
highest eminence without making much money.
2.) A relation as an officer of the court to the administration of justice involving thorough sincerity,
integrity, and reliability.
3.) A relation to clients in the highest degree of fiduciary.
4.) A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by candor, fairness, and unwillingness to resort
to current business methods of advertising and encroachment on their practice, or dealing
directly with their clients.
Solicitation of legal business is not altogether proscribed for solicitation to be proper, it must be
compatible with the dignity of the legal profession.

Angeles vs Gutierrez 668 SCRA 803, March 21, 2012:

Isolated act of filing a pleading does not constitute private practice of law. In People v. Villanueva, 14
SCRA 109 - Private practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary action,
a succession of acts of the same kind. It is customarily or habitually holding one’s self out to the public, as a
lawyer and demanding payment for such services.
Ozaeta vs Romulo, 92 SCRA 1, July 30, 1979:

A partnership for the practice of law is not a legal entity. It is a mere relationship or association for a
particular purpose. It is not a partnership formed for the purpose of carrying on trade or business.

Continued use of a deceased or former partner's name in the firm names of law partnerships not
sanctioned by local customs as there is a possibility of deception upon the public where the name of a deceased
partner continues to be used. It is true that Canon 33 does not consider as unethical the continued use of the
name of a deceased or former partner in the law partnership when such a practice is permissible by local
custom. It must be conceded that in the Philippines, no local custom permits or allows the continued use of a
deceased or former partner's name in the firm names of law partnerships. But the Canon warns that care
should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through its costumed use. A person in search of
legal counsel might be guided by the familiar ring of a distinguished name appearing in a firm title.

Cuenca vs CA, 250 SCRA 485:

Prosecutors who represent the People of the Philippines in a criminal case are not duty bound to seek
conviction of the accused but to see that justice is done.

Vaflor-Fabroa vs Paguinto 615 SCRA 223, March 15, 2010:

When a lawyer caused the filing of baseless criminal complaints, he violated the Lawyer's Oath that a
lawyer shall "not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid or
consent to the same."

A lawyer who takes an oath when admitted to the Bar becomes an Officer of the Court or whose
shoulders on whose shoulders rests the grave responsibility of assisting the courts in the proper, fair, speedy
and efficient administration of justice. (Sambajon vs Suing)

Ramos vs Ngaseo 445 SCRA 529:

Under Article 1491(5) of the Civil Code, lawyers are prohibited from acquiring either by purchase or
assignment the property or rights involved which are the object of the litigation in which they intervene by
virtue of their profession. It applies only if the sale or arraignment of property takes place during the pendency
of the litigation involving the clients’ property. However, if the property is acquired after the tenants of the
case, the prohibition does not apply.

Linsangan vs Tolentino 598 SCRA 133:

A lawyer shall not lend money to his client, except when in the interest of justice, he has to advance
necessary expenses such as filing fees, stenographers fees for transcript of stenographic notes, cash bond or
premium for surety bond for a matter that he is handling for the client.

Bun Siong Yao vs Aurelio 485 SCRA 553:

The relationship between a lawyer and his client is a fiduciary one. The lawyer is not permitted to
disclose communications made to him in his professional character by a client, unless the latter consents. This
obligation arises at the inception of their relationship and does not cease with the termination of the litigation,
nor is it affected by the party's ceasing to employ the attorney and retaining another, or by any other change of
relation between them. It even survives the death of the client.

Venterez vs Cosme 535 SCRA 378:

A lawyer who undertakes an action impliedly stipulates to carry it to its termination or until the case
becomes final and executory. A lawyer is not at liberty to abandon his client and withdraw his services without
reasonable cause and only upon notice or the client’s written consent.

Notarial Law
Santiago vs. Rafanan 440 Scra 91 0ct. 5, 2004:

Notarization converts a private document into a public document thus making that document
admissible in evidence without further proof of its authenticity.

Notary public are required to certify that the party to every document acknowledged before them has
presented the proper residence certificate or any valid passport or ID and to enter its number, place and date of
issue as part of such certification. They are also required to maintain and keep a notarial register entering those
all instruments notarized by them and to give each instruments executed, sworn and acknowledged before
them a number corresponding to the one in their register stating the page/s of their register on which the same
is recorded. Failure to perform those duties would result in the revocation of their commission as notaries
public.

Isenhardt vs Real 666 SCRA 20, February 15, 2012:

A notary public should not notarize a document unless the person who signs it is the same person who
executed it, personally appearing before him to attest to the contents and the truth of what are stated therein.

Nevada vs Casuga 668 SCRA 44:

A notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same are the same
persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truthfulness of what
are stated therein.
Judicial Conduct
Contreras vs Solis 260 SCRA 572:

The duty of a judge is not only to administer justice but also to conduct himself in a manner that would
avoid the slightest hint of anomaly or corruption. In order to discipline a judge, it must clearly be shown that
the judgment or order is unjust as being contrary to law and that the judge rendered it with conscious and
deliberate intent to do injustice.

Judges cannot be subjected to liability civil, criminal or administrative for any of their official acts, no
matter how erroneous, so long as they act in good faith. It is only when they act fraudulently or corruptly, or
with gross ignorance that they may may be held criminally or administratively liable.

Enriquez vs Caminade 485 SCRA 98, March 21, 2006:

Lack of conversance with legal principles sufficiently basic and elementary constitutes gross ignorance
of the law. The New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary requires judges to be embodiments of
judicial competence and diligence.
The new Code of Judicial Conduct consists of six canons, to wit:
1. independence
2. integrity
3. impartiality
4. propriety
5. equality
6. competence and diligence

Based on the 2002 Bangalore Draft as amended which is intended to be the Universal Declaration of
Judicial Standards applicable in all judiciaries.
Promulgated on April 27, 2004
Took effect on June 1, 2004
This supersedes the Canon of Judicial Ethics and the Code of Judicial Conduct, but the latter may still
apply in a suppletory character in case of deficiency in absence of provisions in the New Code.